Can the Buffalo Bulls win the New Year's Six bowl game berth?
A late start for the MAC means we're just getting to know these teams in November, meaning they have to play more games for us to know who's legit and who's just pretending. The Buffalo Bulls were a team that gained a ton of love this offesason thanks to the talent on their roster, but a delayed start killed the excitement for some. While there are some of us who are still riding the bandwagon, others need reminders that this team's legit. The biggest question remaining for this team: is the NY6 possible?
It's not like the MAC can't win the NY6 spot for the Group of 5. Western Michigan did it in 2017 under now Minnesota head coach P.J. Fleck, and the Bulls have a coach in Lance Leipold who's built this program into a potential MAC power. A trip to the NY6 would make him one of the hottest coaches to poach from the coaching carousel, but there are things to address before that happens.
First, Buffalo has to go undefeated and win the MAC. While there's a good chance that happens, there are teams that will test them. The Bulls dismantled the defending MAC champions in Miami (OH) this past week in a 42-10 win. They must also face a Kent State team that's firing on all cylinders and an Ohio team that knows how to compete in this conference. Then there's the winner of the West division (Central and Western Michigan are tied for the top spot right now). Even if they win the conference, there are still obstacles to overcome which are out of their control.
BYU doesn't have an automatic bid for the NY6, but they'd be first in line should a G5 team not be able to fill it. Same with Liberty. The Bulls competition lies with the Cincinnati Bearcats, Marshall Thundering Herd, Coastal Carolina, and potentially a Mountain West champion. All of these teams would have more wins than the Bulls given that Buffalo's only playing six games. So, the short answer is that it's unlikely that Buffalo gets the NY6 berth, but let's talk quickly about why they'd be a great choice.
Buffalo's offense is lead by one of the best backfields in all of college football. Jaret Patterson had a monster sophomore season, and is already off to a great start as a junior. His backup, or rather backfield partner Kevin Marks, is averaging 6.4 yards per carry this year after rushing for 1,000 yards last season. The offensive line continues to pave paths for those two, and has given time for a passing attack to develop.
The Kyle Vantrease to Antonio Nunn connection continues to grow this year. Buffalo's quarterback is their biggest X-Factor for their success, and he's been unleashing some cannon-like throws already this year. Nunn has been on the receiving end of a couple of those, and his big play abilities have been on full display (he's averaging 21.7 yards per catch).
On the other side of the football, Buffalo's defense has been stout through two games. A small sample size, but it's better to look the way they have than the other way around. Led by defensive end in Malcolm Koonce and linebacker James Patterson (Jaret's brother), it's tough to see many teams moving the ball efficiently against them.
While it's unlikely that Buffalo would get the NY6 spot, this is a team that's dangerous. I hope they get a chance to play a Power 5 team if they win out, but it would also be interesting to see how they do against the other potentially undefeated Group of 5 teams. The Bulls are a dangerous team, and it won't be long before teams in need of a coach try to steal Leipold from a rising program.